A protective instinct and live birth

Although worms aren’t known to care for their offspring directly in any way, mothers are concerned for the environment their wormy children will grow up in.  You can see this self-sacrifice if there is no bacterial food around.  Without food, worms stop laying eggs because hatching into starvation wouldn’t be good for the little ones.  In extreme cases, you see a “bag of worms” phenotype: offspring hatch inside their mothers and eventually eat their way out!  Fortunately for the worm in this video, it found a patch of food soon enough that it could start laying eggs again.  And not a moment too soon.  Have a look:

The worm in the top left corner of the frame lays five already-hatched larvae and an egg all at the same time.  The mother almost looks relieved afterwards.

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About André Brown

I'm a scientist with the Medical Research Council in the UK.

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